Tobias Carroll writes fiction and nonfiction. He's the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn, and his work has recently appeared in Tin House, Midnight Breakfast, The Collapsar, The Collagist, Joyland, Necessary Fiction, and Underwater New York. He recently completed a short novel, and is at work on another.
I found a restaurant called the Boiling Pot on Sixth Street, sat down, and ordered a large meal in which crawfish were in fact the primary ingredient. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the slightest idea of how to eat them: were the shells removed, like the lobsters that they somewhat resembled, or left on? I glanced around as best I could, hoping to get some indication of how to proceed from diners at adjacent tables. I felt like an interloper into Cajun cuisine, and it was that unease that kept me from doing the obvious and logical thing – which is to say, flagging down one of the servers and saying. “Look, how exactly do I eat these?” I feared a public shaming, basically.
I haven’t tried my hand at crawfish-eating since then — I was tempted later that same year, while on vacation in Helsinki, but quickly learned that an inexpensive food in the southern US is, as it turns out, a luxury dish in northern Europe.
On a walk through Hell’s Kitchen after work today, though, I came across The Delta Grill; on a chalkboard outside, a crawfish boil was advertised. Perhaps it’s finally time to see what they taste like sans shells.
And, yes, I realize I’ve been neglecting this space. Mostly because the usual “hey, I wrote this over at Vol.1 — here’s a link” seems a bit superfluous these days. Probably time to change certain things over here — whether another design or something else, I don’t yet know.
Thursday morning, I’ll be flying to Los Angeles to attend this year’s EMP Pop Conference. The last time I was in Los Angeles, I was seventeen, looking at colleges there with my parents. I was far more precocious than I believed myself to be; I was excited about Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell and hardcore shows; then, as now, I loathed wearing khaki pants.
Strange realization: I was seventeen then; I’m thirty-four now. Doesn’t feel like half my life ago, and yet there it is.
I’m excited to make the trip: looking forward to seeing dear friends, hear smart people talk about music, and visit some new places. Hopefully, I’ll make it back again before I turn fifty-one.
So: I reviewed Bryan Charles’s memoir for Vol.1. Long story short: I enjoyed it. There was strange feeling I got when reading it, though, and it wasn’t something I could easily bring up in the course of my review. That said, I thought I might do so here.
As someone who lived not far from Charles during the time described in his book, it’s a surreal read. The apartment Charles describes living in for much of the book is about ten blocks from where I was living (still live, in fact) at the time. He talks about a bar on 14th and B with half-price beer on Thursdays; I was at that bar on many a Thursday night. And there’s aÂ surreal quality to reading a book that describes certain locations during a certain time and realizing that, more than likely, you could be found in the background of those scenes, lurking on the periphery, the main character of your own as-yet-unwritten story.
As I periodically mention here, I’ve been deeply involved as of late with Vol.1’s Sunday Story Series. As the name suggests, it’s a weekly piece, either fiction or nonfiction, that runs on Sunday mornings. And on January 30th, the story in question came from, well, me.
It’s called “Revolution Come and Gone.” (The title is a hat-tip to an early-90s compilation that I listened to more or less endlessly in my formative years.) It’s the opening of my novel-in-progress Reel, and it starts out something like this:
Timon met Marianne at a Black Halos show in Seattle. It wasn’t the colder season yet, but its arrival was obvious. Jackets and a few bold scarves could be seen on bodies on the streets surrounding the club. These were melancholy hours, a time to have impractical thoughts and ponder ways in and out on walks through the city.
The quote itself comes from the last issue of Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, which is — I daresay — one of my favorite works in any kind of media, and one which continues to resonate with me in strange and different ways since I first encountered it in the mid-90s.
So here’s the full quote. I used the last line:
We made gods and jailers because we felt small and ashamed and alone. We let them try us and judge us and, like sheep to slaughter, we allowed ourselves to be…sentenced.
See! Now! Our sentence is up.
I’d messed around with some designs, but nothing quite seemed to fit the test. I ended up consulting my friends Alex and Scott, each of whom knows quite a bit about typography than me. Alex suggested Rockwell as a font; with that in mind, Scott came up with a pair of designs:
I then made my way to Josh at Greenpoint’s own Three Kings Tattoo, where the design was turned into what you see below (and also on my left arm). Apologies for the blurred cameraphone image — it’s still markedly better than the photos I’ve taken since then.
After this was done, I noted that it had taken me thirty-three years and four months to get my first tattoo, and ten after that to get my second. At this rate, I may not have any uninked skin by the time I’ve reached my forties…
Specifically, I wanted to do something focusing on the one piece of record-related minutiae that I’ve always been fond of:Â the bits of writing carved into the margins of records. Sometimes inside jokes, sometimes offbeat references, sometimes something else entirely. Ergo: Lock Grooves & Lit, which will be updated a few times a week until…well, I run out of records with things carved into the margins.
Tonight at Public Assembly, Vol.1 will be hosting a panel discussion of 90s punk. From the description:
On Wednesday, January 5th, 2011, join Vol. 1 Brooklyn editors in this discussion with four authors as they talk about the decade that punk broke, sold out and eventually died – but not before changing the faces of music, politics and popular culture.
Featuring: Sara Marcus (Author of Girls to the Front: The True Story of Riot Grrrl Revolution), Eric Davidson (New Bomb Turks, Author of We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001), Norman Brannon (Texas is the Reason, Author of The Anti-Matter Anthology: A 1990s Post-Punk & Hardcore Reader), Maura Johnston (The Awl, Village Voice).
At Public Assembly (70 N. 6th, Williamsburg, Brooklyn), 7 PM, $3 dollar suggested donation encouraged.
So: a decade and change ago, there was a band called My Favorite Citizen. They played a noisy sort of indie rock, and wrote some incredibly catchy songs. They released one seven inch, and a couple of songs on compilations. Scott (who’s the fellow handling most of the vocal duties in the video below) used to run a record label, so I can’t be remotely unbiased about their music. I don’t much care; these are songs I damn well love.
Besides the end of a year, last week brought with it visitors — friends old and new, both in town from scenic Eugene, Oregon. This, then, reminded me of an establishment in said Oregonian city called Off the Waffle, at which I dined for the first time in the spring of 2010. It was, as the photograph above might suggest, a ridiculously delicious experience.
Subsequently, I’ve been craving liÃ¨ge waffles pretty fiercely. Specifically, though, I’ve been craving Off the Waffle’s particular ability to do interesting things with the savory/sweet divide. New York has the Wafels and Dinges truck, but from what I’ve seen, their wares generally fall mainly on the sweet side of the spectrum. I suppose what I’m looking for is some sort of waffle equivalent to Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s — which I realize is an unlikely combination. Still, it’s a big city out there, and one where the food options never fail to surprise.
It’s just after 4 in the afternoon as I type these words. The snow that’s spent most of the last week clogging the streets and sidewalks of my small corner of Brooklyn has begun to melt, aided by the morning’s rainfall. My windows are cracked a bit, letting some fresh air into the apartment. Soon enough, the dough that’s currently sitting in a countertop food processor will be placed into the oven and the apartment will fill with the smell of baking bread.
There’s an LP playing on the stereo in my living room. It’s from a duo called Reading Rainbow, and its title is Prism Eyes. Mostly, though, I just keep returning the needle to the beginning of side A, so that I can listen to the song “Wasting Time” again and again. It’s just about perfect, as noisy pop songs go: infectious and simple and magnificently catchy.
“Feel the sun is on us now/ I feel fine/ No one else can show us how,” they sing as the song ends. It doesn’t seem like a bad motto to take with me into this newly-born year.
So: I did a writeup of albums I liked that came out this year for Dusted. I opted to pair each of the albums with another, as I tended to be able to find…at least some common ground when I did this. (Though the Monae/Amidon double bill may have been a bit of a stretch.) This overlaps with, but doesn’t totally equal, my Pazz & Jop ballot, which I’ll link to once it’s up.
Also, I should throw in entirely non-objective recommendations for three albums that I quite enjoyed this year but couldn’t really write about (as the artists in question are or include friends of mine).
For me, writing about Rocky Votolato’s True Devotionnecessitatesbringing up his previous albums, most of which were characterized by an urgency and a taut style of playing. (Suicide Medicine is probably the apex of this.) True Devotion feels every bit as urgent, but there’s more of a sense of space. In other words, the quiet moments mean as much as the loud ones; the slow parts resonate as much as the uptempo sections.
Bells’ There Are Crashes is a fine six-song EP of instrumental music. On record, this is a fine, rich dose of post-rock, with cello aiding the quartet’s sinewy progressions through shifting moods and tempos. Live, they’re a very different creature, louder, more unrestrained, and even more conscious of space.
And Elk City’s House of Tongues is a terrific pop album, with Sean Eden’s shimmering guitar work aiding songs like “Stars” and “Nine O’Clock In France” towards the transcendent.
So. Recently, Vol.1 has begun to run a weekly series of fiction and nonfiction pieces on the site. We’ve dubbed it the Sunday Story Series, for reasons that should be obvious, and the first two have now appeared:
I visited my hometown for a couple of days around Thanksgiving. For the better part of the year, I’ve wanted to return to nearby Red Bank, to revisit some old haunts and explore some places that have opened more recently.